The Zen Factor Missing With Struggling Los Angeles Lakers Squad
This isn’t an article about how the struggling 9-13 Los Angeles Lakers screwed up by firing coach Mike Brown five games into the 2012-2013 season.
This also isn’t an article about how the Lakers prematurely hired coach Mike D’Antoni a day before meeting legendary coach Phil Jackson, who expressed interest in the coaching position. Or how coach Jackson’s would have handled a poorly assembled Lakers squad.
Finally, this isn’t about the Lakers’ fundamental basketball issues. This isn’t about sabre-metrics, player efficiency rankings (PER), and Dwight Howard’s headbands. The talent isn’t the issue here, on paper. Injuries are an issue, but it doesn’t tell the entire story.
Its the lack of Zen. Not exactly coach Jackson, but the Zen factor Kobe Bryant alluded to in his last post-game interview after a 100-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavilers.
“I’m very upset, and in the past I would blow my top and go crazy,” he said. “Then I had a head coach [Phil Jackson] who always kept calm and I learned from that. “I’m trying to do the same thing here, but I won’t lie; they’re messing with my Zen stuff.”
Zen stuff. What is that?
Zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the Buddhist teachings. It entirely favors direct understanding through interaction with an accomplished teacher (Jackson). One of the more popular teachings of Zen is called the Dhrama transmission. One characteristic of Zen is called esoteric transmission, in which “the tradition and the enlightened mind is transmitted face to face“ Metaphorically this can be described as the transmission from a flame from one candle to another candle, or the transmission from one vein to another.
I thought Kobe’s “Zen” comment provided insight on the Lakers’ damaged psyche. The Lakers look great on paper, but incredibly porous on the court. There is a lack of cohesiveness, especially on the defensive side, massive egos clashing, and vulnerability on all sides of the ball. There is very little self-awakening among the Lakers unit as a whole.
In addition, D’Antoni is sulking with the players, something I can never see Jackson doing. Even with Steve Nash and Pau Gasol returning soon, there are no immediate basketball fixes under this administration.
From a Zen perspective, there seems to be little esoteric transmission between players and coaches right now, from Kobe to Howard to D’Antoni to Gasol. Rather than lighting each other’s candles, they are holding on to the fact they have a flame already burning…and its slowly dimming, evident by their 8-game losing streak. Perhaps coach Jackson would be able to install these subconscious principles into a Lakers team that seemingly lacks them right now.
The struggles point to something much bigger than basketball. I wouldn’t say exactly that religion is the way to fix these problems, but clearly Coach Jackson’s ability to whether the storms and maintain a calming mental stronghold on his players is missing right now.
Esoteric transmission requires “direct access to the teaching through a personal discovery of one’s self. This type of transmission and identification is symbolized by the discovery of a shining lantern, or a mirror.
Until the Lakers as a unit look into that mirror, and realize that their basketball issues go beyond their physical attributes, the transmission will always be stuck in neutral.
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